Archive for June, 2010

Mark Jaffe of the Denver Post is reporting here on $5.2 million in civil fines levied against BP American for submitting “false, inaccurate, or misleading” reports on natural gas production on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Colorado.

“We are committed to collecting every dollar due from energy production that occurs on Federal and American Indian lands, and accurate reporting is crucial to that effort,” said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. That’s the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service.

Jaffe writes that tribal auditors brought the problem to BP’s attention.

Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Matthew J. Box said he appreciated the agency’s action in fining BP.

Gwen Florio

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Paul Manly is a filmmaker and community organizer based in Nanaimo, B.C. Writing here for the CBC, he has a point:

    The key arguments against the G8 and G20 put forward at these events was that these summits are illegitimate and undemocratic, the $1.2-billion budget for a three-day summit could have been used to bolster the $1.9-billion annual budget of the United Nations, or pay for housing, transit, clean drinking water for First Nations communities, food for hungry people etc. The austerity summit was anything but austere, the budget was outrageous.

Gwen Florio

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Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican who is vice-chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, is pushing an amendment that would limit attorneys’ fees in the $3.4 billion Cobell v. Salazar settlement.

That agreement, announced in December, would partially compensate hundreds of thousands of Indian people for generations of federal mismanagement of royalties from their lands. It needs congressional approval before people can begin receiving their money, and lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet, says she fears Barrasso’s amendment could sink the entire agreement.

A recent Casper (Wyo.) Star Tribune editorial urged Barrasso to drop the amendment, concluding that “Justice has been delayed far too long for many Indian beneficiaries in this long-running lawsuit. Barrasso should listen to the tribal leaders and, at the least, remove himself as an obstacle to resolution.” Here, he responds:

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. (AP photo)

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. (AP photo)


Your June 28 editorial, “Senator should drop attempt to alter settlement,” does not accurately describe my participation in the Cobell settlement process.

As vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I have a responsibility to oversee the Cobell legislation before the Senate. In April, I approached Indian tribes across the country to get their feedback about the Cobell legislation.

After listening to the concerns and opinions of Indian Country, I proposed a few key changes to the settlement — including lowering the cap on attorney fees from $100 million to $50 million. This change would allow the additional funding to be distributed among tribal members. Tribal organizations for the Northwest and Great Plains, as well as numerous individual tribal members, have expressed public support for my amendment.

You reported that my effort to amend the legislation would nullify the settlement. In fact, the parties themselves have substantively changed the settlement several times without voiding the current legislation. My changes could be easily incorporated and would directly benefit tribal members.

While I would like to see Congress finalize the Cobell legislation as soon as possible, we should not simply rubber stamp this $3.4 billion agreement. As our country continues to face a $13 trillion deficit, Congress should carefully review and improve any legislation that spends 3.4 billion taxpayer dollars.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, Washington, D.C.

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One of the signs at the Marine Life Protection Act advisory board meeting. (Eureka Times-Standard photo)

One of the signs at the Marine Life Protection Act advisory board meeting. (Eureka Times-Standard photo)

A group of people from various North Coast Native American tribes protested during a meeting of the Marine Life Protection Act science advisory team yesterday in Eureka, Calif.

The group carries signs reading, “MLPA making my grandmother an outlaw,” and “Respect Native Tradition,” according to Donna Tam of the Eureka Times-Standard, here:

    The science advisory team was meeting on various matters Tuesday, including an update on its tribal work group and data collection concerning the gathering practices of tribes, including how much fish, what kind of fish and how fish are captured. MLPA Initiative staff member Satie Airame told the advisory team that the work group is continuing to meet with tribal representatives on the matter.

    Tribal groups called the survey methods intrusive and unnecessary and said there should be representatives from the tribes on the advisory team.

The act calls would curtail or end altogether fishing and gathering in certain zones. Those protesting included members of the Coastal Justice Coalition.

Gwen Florio

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Here’s the whole story from the Rapid City Journal:

Fry bread is favored by many tribes. In this 2005 photo, Zelda Chaplin, a cook at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, takes out a piece of frybread during the lunch hour. (Arizona Daily Star photo)

Frybread is favored by many tribes. In this 2005 photo, Zelda Chaplin, a cook at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, N.M., takes out a piece of frybread during the lunch hour. (Arizona Daily Star photo)

South Dakota’s official bread has been put in the crosshairs of a national health magazine.

“Health” magazine on Tuesday named frybread as one of the 50 fattiest foods in the United States as part of a story identifying at least one less-than-healthy food item from each state.

In identifying frybread as South Dakota’s contribution to the food wall of shame, it said the the traditional Native American dish has about 25 grams of fat. Frybread was named South Dakota’s official state bread in 2005.

Many of the state’s neighbors got off more lightly — both figuratively and literally — with the magazine’s selections.

North Dakota was recognized for its Fleischkuechle, a meat patty smothered in a fried dough wrapping that has about 19 grams of fat. Meanwhile, Nebraska was noted as birthplace of the Eskimo pie (13 grams of fat), Montana for Rocky Mountain oysters (5 grams of fat per “oyster”) and Wyoming for the relatively lean lamb chops (about 12 grams of fat per chop).

Only Minnesota topped South Dakota, being recognized as headquarters for Dairy Queen and that chain’s FlameThrower GrillBurger, which has a whopping 75 grams of fat per burger.

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Reuters’ Alex Dobuzinski expands upon a theme we’ve been posting about a lot concerning the “Twilight” teen vampire books and movies. They’re much in the news again these days because of the release of the most recent film, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” Here’s how Dobuzinski puts it:

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – It took “Twilight” to do what Hollywood’s major studios have struggled with for over a century — treat Native American teenagers like normal kids.

    No leather loincloths, no hair feathers, no dancing around campfires, no tales of woe on reservations.

    Sure, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” which opens in theaters on Wednesday, is pure fantasy with its tale of romance among vampires and the werewolves who sometimes stalk them, but for the actors of the “Wolf Pack” their roles seem very real.

    When they aren’t battling vampires with their razor-like claws and sharp teeth, the werewolves take the human form of Native Americans from the Quileute tribe.

    Chaske Spencer, who plays the leader of the pack, told Reuters that working in the “Twilight” movies has been exciting because it portrays Native Americans in a new and positive light and is aimed at a young audience.

    Members of the Wolf Pack dress like modern kids at the mall in denim jeans and shirts — when they are wearing shirts because the pack is famously bare-chested in much of the movies — and they posses a quick wits and generous spirits.

“There’s a lot of stereotypes that have been squashed,” Spencer tells Reuters. “We’re part of this pop culture phenomenon, and we’re put in a different light. And the kids see that, and they’re digging on it. They love that vibe.”

Gwen Florio

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Tetona Dunlap is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Montana. She is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

Tetona Dunlap

Tetona Dunlap

A group of five women at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, have established the first sorority and only Greek organization on campus.

The women are members of the Alpha Pi Omega, the nation’s oldest American Indian sorority that was established at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Established in 1994, the sorority has more than 400 sisters nationwide representing 70 tribes. It comprises nine undergraduate chapters and four graduate chapters in five states. There are currently chapters at Oklahoma State University, University of New Mexico and Dartmouth College, to name a few.

According to the Alpha Pi Omega website, Haskell joins four other schools in the process of creating chapters on their campuses. Some of these schools include the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Northern Colorado and Harvard University.

I commend these women for their hard work and foresight in bringing this organization to the campus of Haskell.

In fact, I am a little surprised that Alpha Pi Omega is not already well established at Haskell. However, in an interview with Indian Country Today, Alpha Pi Omega’s grand expansion director Cho Werito said, “They have the potential to be the biggest chapter.”

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The new federal Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act goes into effect today, but last night a federal court granted a temporary restraining order that allows a Seneca Nation mail-order cigarette retailer to to stay in business.

As Patrick Lakamp and Dan Herbeck of the Buffalo News report here:

    District Judge Richard J. Arcara granted the motion as part of the retailer’s lawsuit against the U.S. government. The retailer, Red Earth, which does business as Seneca Smokeshop, has asked the court to declare the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act unconstitutional.

    Seneca Smokeshop, a 10-year-old business, employs 17 people and sells cigarettes in 46 states. It is owned by Aaron J. Pierce, a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The PACT Act, signed by President Obama in March, bans shipping cigarettes, and also requires those selling them on the Internet to pay all taxes, including tribal taxes.

The restraining order – which applies only to the Seneca Smokeshop and Pierce – is in effect for 14 days.

Tribes have vigorously objected to the PACT Act, claiming it’s unconstitutional and a violation of tribal sovereignty. The PACT Act was supported by smoking foes – but also by big tobacco companies.

Gwen Florio

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Indian Country Today, here, takes a look at something that happened during a Memorial Day weekend powwow in Ohio. Let’s let Stephanie Woodard tell it:

    A Custer re-enactor participated in the color guard for a Memorial Day powwow on the campus of the Dayton Veterans Administration Medical Center. Accompanying the Custer figure were General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant lookalikes. (Indian Country Today courtesy photo/Miami Valley Council for Native Americans)

    A Custer re-enactor participated in the color guard for a Memorial Day powwow on the campus of the Dayton Veterans Administration Medical Center. Accompanying the Custer figure were General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant lookalikes. (Indian Country Today courtesy photo/Miami Valley Council for Native Americans)

    DAYTON, Ohio – On May 30, Guy Jones, Hunkpapa Lakota, was emceeing the Selma Walker Memorial Day Powwow in Columbus, Ohio, when he received a text message. “You’ll never guess who just entered the arena here in Dayton,” was its gist, recalled Jones.

    He quickly learned that an actor costumed as George Armstrong Custer was participating in the color guard for a powwow occurring simultaneously on the Dayton Veterans Administration Medical Center campus. “Send photos,” replied Jones, who is a lecturer, author, and co-founder of The Miami Valley Council for Native Americans.

A photo was sent, and it’s a doozy. It shows the Patriot Freedom Festival, hosted each Memorial Day weekend by the Dayton Veterans Administration along with the American Veterans Heritage Center. This year, the festivities – for the first time – included a powwow and a service at the Dayton National Cemetery to highlight military contributions of Native Americans.

Problem is, the color guard featured re-enactors playing General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant lookalikes – and also a Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer re-enactor, something Jones called a hate crime.

“Custer and his men killed the wife and children of my grandfather, Gall. This so-called man – this baby killer, this woman killer – should never have been allowed within our circle or honored by inclusion in the color guard. Would you take a Hitler impersonator to a synagogue? Would you take a KKK member to an African-American church?”

Things got worse:

    Dayton vendor Leon “Sam” Briggs, Tonawanda Band of Senecas, a blacksmith and artist, protested to a group of event organizers, calling Custer’s appearance “a desecration of our sacred circle.” A heated discussion followed, during which an organizer hit Briggs twice in the abdomen and twisted his arm, causing it to bleed, according to accounts from Haithcock, Saponi vendor Keith Freeman, and a non-Native veteran who observed the encounter.

A complaint has been filed with the Dayton VA, whose medical center director, Guy B. Richardson, apologized.

Gwen Florio

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Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and writes from Fort Hall, Idaho. Comment here.

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

This past weekend the Coeur d’Alene Tribe celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Benewah Medical Center in Plummer, Idaho. “In 1987, the BMC Web site reports, “the Coeur d’Alene Tribe began to search for ways to improve the health care services at their small Indian Health Service satellite clinic. It was located at the Tribal Headquarters, several miles from the City of Plummer, Idaho. Many tribal members were dissatisfied with 15 years of fragmented care delivered in a semi-condemned building and with poor continuity of care.”

Indeed, the complaints about the IHS facility and its operation were similar to those heard across Indian Country. And, like many tribes, the Coeur d’Alene proceeded to create its own health care network. But this was a broader vision, one that went beyond just replacing and recreating IHS; there was also a sense of something new. Prevention was made a priority and a wellness center complimented patient care. There also was recognition of the gap in rural health care services. As Benewah Medical Center describes it: “None of the ambulatory care facilities in the four surrounding counties of the Northern Idaho town were providing services to the medically underserved on a sliding fee basis.”

So a tribal community health center was created – launching two decades of innovation.

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